Deflation Phobia on the NYT Editorial Page

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Tuesday, 18 February 2014 08:12

It's baaaaaaaaaaaaack! Those silly warnings about the menace of deflation, this time in a NYT editorial. Come on folks, this one is really simple; the problem of deflation is an inflation rate that it is too low. Even an economist can figure this one out.

When you have near zero inflation many prices are already falling. What's the difference if the price of 55 percent of goods and services are declining instead of 45 percent? Besides these are all quality adjusted prices, so in many cases the actual purchase price of most items might be rising even in a period of deflation.

This matters because it leads people to believe that keeping the inflation rate above zero is somehow an accomplishment, with things getting bad only if the aggregate figure goes negative. This is not true, there is no magic to zero. The problem in the euro zone and in the United States is that inflation is too low. If it goes negative then it will be an even bigger problem, but that is only because it will be a lower inflation rate, crossing zero means nothing.